One final hurdle essentially remains for Eagle Mountain to relocate its casino to Porterville.
The next step for the Eagle Mountain Casino to be relocated near the Porterville Municipal Airport is for the U.S Department of Interior to approve the Tule River Tribe's Fee-To-Trust application for the project.
The action to place the Tule River land near the airport in trust provides the authority for the Tule River Tribe make decisions on how to develop the land and its resources.
The fee-to-trust process is required by the federal government when a tribe wants to place a casino off of reservation land.
The last requirement for the fee-to-trust application to be approved was essentially taken last month when Governor Gavin Newsom approved a compact, essentially a contract between the state and the Tule River Tribe, giving the state's endorsement for the casino relocation. State approval is required for a fee-to-trust application to be approved.
Another requirement of a fee-to-trust application to be approved is that the casino relocation isn't a detriment to the surrounding community. A letter from Tulare County Board of Supervisors signed by Board Chairman Peter Vander Poel expressing support for the fee-to-trust application be approved covers that issue, stating the casino relocation would bring considerable benefits to Porterville and the county.
As part of its consent calendar at its meeting last Tuesday, the board of supervisors approved the letter sent to U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy-R.
In the letter Vander Poel his support for the relocation “and to respectfully request that you urge the Department of Interior to promptly issue a decision to accept the property into trust for the Tribe.”
He also noted Newsom's action to endorse the Department of Interior to take the property into trust.
“As we understand it, the only remaining action is the administrative process of issuing the decision and taking the land into trust,” Vander Poel wrote. “The deadline for this action is October 2; otherwise, the Tribe would need to re-start the entire process.
“Because of the importance of the Relocation Project to the local community, we request that the completion of this process be a priority and completed as expeditiously as possible. The Relocation Project will result in several direct and indirect benefits to the County, including job creation, road improvements, a payment in lieu of taxes to the County, and an increase in economic development activity surrounding the Relocation Project.”
Vander Poel also noted the Tule Rive Tribe has committed additional funding that would result from the relocation for fire services and a new Sheriff's substation to be located near the South County Detention Facility. The substation currently in Porterville is considered to be inadequate.
“The sheriff’s station is of particular importance to the community and will address the need for increased law enforcement services,” Vander Poel wrote.
He also wrote: “The Relocation Project's positive impact on the local and regional economy will also assist the County in financially recovering from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The County requests your help to ensure that the Department of Interior takes all of the necessary action to complete the fee to trust process for the Relocation Project. The County and the Tribe are anxious to see the Relocation Project completed to enable the County and the Tribe to realize the many benefits from the Relocation Project.”
Once the fee-to-trust application is approved that would pave the way for the development of the casino relocation.
The relocated casino is proposed to include a 250-room hotel, 29,000 square feet of convention space, a sports bar, restaurant, buffet and food court, entertainment lounge and 1,700 seat entertainment center.